Tuesday, June 5, 2007
Is this a death wish?
I know what you are thinking. "Has this guy run out of material?
Well, the answer is: "Photographically, yes (and let's hope the action picks up soon). But as fodder for armchair theorization, I find it fascinating that only two days since its last visit, the bear cub is back again checking out the area where the puma slobbered last week.
Why? Does this scruffy little bear have a death wish? I mean, why revisit a site where you know the predator has lingered?
To the contrary. The cub is gathering intelligence.
I would bet dollars to doughnuts that the bear . . .
a) knows that the scent on that rock is not its own scent, and
b) recognizes it as unusual or out-of-the-ordinary. In relation to the kaleidoscope of plant and animal smells it encounters in the course of a normal working day, it probably files this smell in the "suspicious scent category". [Scientists call the fear of the new (or unknown) neophobia.]
In addition. I would wager that scruffy the bear might temporarily avoid areas where the strange-smelling scent is frequent and fresh.
We know that carnivores in general live by their noses, and have remarkable powers of olfactory discrimination. While it might seem foolhardy to revisit the mossy rock, the bear cub can probably guage the age of the scent. A fresh mark by the mountain lion may well tell it that it is time to move on to another place.
In due course, this cub may live to learn that encounters with mountain lions are frightening and injurious. Then again, it may not live to learn that lesson.
To my knowledge, the definitive experiment has not been done to give credence to any of this rambling discourse. That's why it's fun being an armchair theorist.